Friday, 17 June 2011

Time to go?

Every time I’ve been on the hill for more than 20 years the same Mountain Equipment fleece has been with me, I’ve either walked in it, climbed in it, or it’s been in my sack as a back up layer. It’s only thin but it’s warm and comfortable, unfortunately its not windproof, but purchase of a Montana Lite-Speed Windshirt, solved that problem some time ago.

You may ask, why do I want to replace it if it’s so good? Well I don’t really, but for some time now I’ve been looking at lightweight padded jackets, for use when wild camping, bothying and on hut to hut walks. I’m really looking for some extra insulation for those nights when the sleeping bag needs a bit of help, on cold mornings or that extra bit of comfort for after a hard day on the hills.

My first thought was a lightweight down jacket such as the Montbell UL Down Inner, very light, packs up small and good warmth to weight ratio. In fact, if they had been readily available in the UK, I would probably have bought one without a second thought, but they are not!

This made me ask myself the question, do you really need a new jacket or do you just fancy buying a new piece of kit? Well if I do need a new jacket, it must be lighter and more versatile than the old one.

So, the new jacket must weigh under 363g (the weight of my Mountain Equipment fleece), it must be warmer but still perform in the wet, and it must be windproof.

What jackets fall into this category? Well, although they are lighter and warmer, down jackets do not perform when they are wet, so would be of little use as an additional layer under a waterproof, because of the damp and condensation. The same problem would occur if I got my down sleeping bag damp or wet, a down jacket would soon soak up the moisture and become equally useless.

Initially I hadn’t considered synthetic materials, because of their weight penalty when compared with down, but if I could find a synthetic jacket that was lighter than my fleece, but was warmer, more comfortable to wear and windproof, maybe a bit of retail therapy could be justified.

The Montbell Thermawrap Jacket looked good but it’s not available in the UK, the RAB Generator Jacket gets rave reviews but at 430g it’s just too heavy, I haven’t sweated blood to reduce my rucksack base weight, in order to buy a replacement item that is heavier. Then I came across the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket, it looks good, weighs in at 320g, so is lighter than my fleece, the pullover version received excellent reviews on the BackpackGearTest website, and I recall trying on a Nano Puff  Vest, in The Mountain Factor shop last winter, and being impressed how warm and comfortable it was.

So I gave them a quick call, and discovered, not only did they have my size and preferred colour in stock, but if I ordered before I’d get free next day delivery.

No prizes for guessing what the postman has just delivered then!

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